Sunday, October 9, 2011

Wandering in Chengdu, China

We spent the Chinese National Holiday (a week off to celebrate China becoming a Communist country-kind of like our Fourth of July holiday) going North to the Sichuan province.  We went with some other teachers on an organized tour of the area.  We stayed in and around Chengdu, a large city in a valley, surrounded by mountains.  It is about 3 hours by plane from Shenzhen.  Much cooler there.  They had some leaves beginning to turn color.  The air was refreshingly cool.  We loved getting to wear jeans and a fleece!  We spent four days, five nights touring in the area.  It was great to have a tour guide help with the hotels and restaurants and travel.  It was exhausting, though!  Every day we were driving several hours.  Up early, to bed late.  We don't plan to do another tour like that again until the boys are older.

The first day we saw a giant Buddha carved from a mountainside and several temples.  The second day we road several hours up the side of a mountain on a bus, then hopped on a cable car ride up to the top of the summit.  The bus ride was terrifying!  The driver spent a lot of time honking his horn and trying to pass on narrow, curvy mountain roads which were enveloped by clouds.  When we finally got to the top of the mountain, we saw the giant, gold, Buddha statue and another temple.  It was very cloudy, so we were not able to see much from the mountain top.  The cable car ride was all enveloped by clouds.  We took a very small, two person cable car ride up the mountain, then rode in a large, 100 person cable car ride down the mountain. This was Mt. Emai, the tallest peak in the area.  We also did a lot of walking up and down steps they carved into the mountain.  We have decided the Chinese love to build steps.  They have them up and down mountains wherever we go.  Along the trail we saw some "naughty monkeys" as they say.  They were Tibetan Macaques.  Very cute, but yes, naughty.  They love to steal food.  We saw them take milk boxes and open them and drink out of them.  They stole water bottles and food.  We saw some really cute little baby monkeys along the way.  The boys loved the monkeys!

The third day was our favorite.  We got to go to the Giant Panda rescue and research facility.  They have 80 pandas living there.  There are only about 1,000 pandas left in the wild.  They all live in the region that we visited.  It was a beautiful area.  We hiked (walked up and down steps again!) through their habitat.  Beautiful mountain streams and waterfalls.  Then we got to see the pandas they are working with.  They had a newborn panda there!  So cute!  Our favorite was the Panda Kindergarten section.  These were young pandas.  They were playing together.  We also saw large pandas eating, sleeping, climbing trees..  We all really enjoyed it.

The last day we toured a beautiful park surrounding a 1,000 year old Irrigation System.  It was built to avoid flooding in the area as well as to provide drinking water for the people.  They built pagodas to overlook the river.  We climbed up there to look around.  There was another temple built there, as well as fountains, statues of the men who created the irrigation system and beautiful landscaping.  The Chinese are really into their horticulture.  Everywhere you go they have planted beautiful landscaping.

 They can really climb high!  Then they sleep in the tree.

 The boys wanted a panda bear souvenir.
 They built a lovely park around the Irrigation System.

 A fancy phone booth we found in one of the parks!

 These men were dressed up and would move if you put money in their jar (otherwise they were like statues).  They wanted to take a picture with our kids.  Thomas was brave enough to do it!
 The Chinese kept taking pictures of us, especially the boys.  They constantly ask to take pictures of them, touch their heads, smile and point and try to say hello.  Many had never seen a caucasian in the areas that we were traveling to, so they were very excited to see us.  I eventually decided I might as well take pictures of them too!  Here is a cutie!
 Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong.  We took a ferry across it.  Beautiful at night.

 Tried to capture some pictures of the people in the streets.  This little guy was playing near the chickens for sale.  The elderly still work hard, carrying big baskets on their backs to market.

 Have to include some bathroom pictures.  You wouldn't believe me if I just wrote about them.  Mike found this funny sign in the mens bathroom.  The picture below is a really nice toilet in the womens bathroom.  This one is actually quite clean.  I didn't want to disgust you with a nasty one.  Believe me, this is a good one!  You have to carry your own toilet paper most of the time.  Very few have TP and rarely soap.  Some don't even have water to rinse your hands.  It is hard to aim with a "squatty potty" so most of them are very smelly and sticky.  You never wear your shoes in the house in China.  The streets are disgusting (babies just pee in the street), and the bathroom floors are obviously gross.
Our flight left really early from Chengdu, so we planned a day in Hong Kong on the way home.  We had only been to the airport there so far.  Mike's cousin, Todd, lives in Hong Kong.  He is there working for Heinz.  He has been there a year so far, so he was our tour guide!  We had a great time hanging out with him and seeing what life is like there as an expat.  We had some shopping to do, too, so he took us to find Halloween costumes for the boys, and some other items I couldn't find in Shenzhen.  Hong Kong is a really nice city.  Lots of expats there, including a lot of Americans.  Big shopping malls. lots of restaurants.  Very densely packed city in terms of population. We really enjoyed it and will be back a lot as it is just about an hour travel time for us to go from our home.  You can take a ferry or a train/metro combination, or taxi or bus.

Wow, have I written a lot!  So much more to write, but I think I will just say it with pictures instead.  We took so many more pictures, but I am sure you have seen enough!

Tibetan Macaque monkeys.

Kristie was terrified on this cable car!  The big one down was much easier on the nerves than this tiny one going up.  It was worth the nerves, though, when we finally got to the top and got to see what they had managed to build up there.
The Golden Summit on Mt. Emai.  Gold paint on most of it.  Just one part (that Buddha is holding in his hands) is solid gold.

Beautiful waterfalls in the Panda Habitat.
Eating bamboo.